Two years after unveiling what became known as the Thessaloniki economic program, Alexis Tsipras appeared at the city’s international fair on the weekend wearing quite a different mask. While he tried to maintain an aggressive political profile, essentially he was using a tactic of “aggressive defense,” as he replaced the big words of Leftist rhetoric with the kinds of statements and admissions that under normal circumstances would have made the hair of any leftist-SYRIZA purist stand up on end – especially in view of the upcoming party convention. Tsipras will have to run the gamut of his, admittedly, rich imagination to embellish with some leftist phrasing admissions such as “of course, the market has its own rules for self-regulation,” and persuade his comrades that he has not betrayed them.
On the one hand, we could argue that the Greek PM has woken up to reality. However, given his recent past, it’s only natural for his credibility to come into question and for people to wonder if he means what he says. Especially when you consider that at the same TIF press conference he avoided, through some clever rhetorical maneuvering, to implicitly support TAIPED privatization fund president Stergios Pitsiorlas, who frequently comes under fire from cabinet ministers. These are the same ministers who have undermined so many privatization attempts that are “determined by the agreement,” as Tsipras said, in reference, of course, to the bailout (the bailout is referred to as the “agreement” in the dialect of the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks communication strategy).
Tsipras said much more in Thessaloniki that raised questions regarding his true intentions, though generally speaking, he seemed to be aiming – between now and the next elections, whenever those may be – to woo votes from the center. He left no doubt that not only does he agree with, but also encourages the criminal charges against former statistics chief Andreas Georgiou, using wording that could be seen as directing justice. He did the same regarding the recent competition for the four broadcasting licenses. He went all in on this issue, to the point that he, a leftist by his own admission, exchanged barbs with journalists facing possible unemployment as they work at stations that are at risk of closing. A Facebook post by Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis showing one of the journalists in question posing with New Democracy officials, including former PM Antonis Samaras, was no coincidence. Tsipras chose not to answer a question regarding the activities of self-styled anarchists in Exarchia and elsewhere. Instead, he attacked opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Clearly Tsipras has decided to wear a mask with two faces, to use doublespeak and not follow words with actions. Such a tactic, however, will only ensure that he is still thought unreliable.